The Yes On The Table

It started with a yes.

We were at Next Level church and this was long before Next Level was our church.  We were there only because one of our absolute favorites was there too, speaking and meeting people.  Even us!

Jen Hatmaker

Jen had come to speak and we had come to hear.  It was a holy moment because at the end, Jen said, “Just put your yes on the table.  Give Him your yes.”  And we did.

And it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

But it was.  Because a very short time later, we saw this photo.

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And we heard a whisper.  “This is your daughter.”  and we began the process.

19 months later and we thought the hard part was over.  She was home, she was safe, we had our seventh child in our midst.

But we didn’t know what hard was then.

We didn’t know that when we put our yes on the table and we said yes to Him, the One that holds all things together, that he was going to do more than just bring a little girl home.

He brought a little girl home but he also changed us.

And it kind of makes me want to say to God, “I see what you did there.” because I thought the whole point was bringing Sisi home.  And for sure that was one of the whole points.  The Bible says it clearly.  “Care for the widows and orphans in their distress.” and “He sets the lonely in families.” and “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God.” and “the Lord sustains the fatherless.” and “defend the weak and the fatherless” and “love one another as I have loved you” and that was all very clear.  Bringing Sisi home was the work of God.

But there was more to unpack in this “yes”.

Parenting a child from trauma meant that all of our ugliness was forced to the surface.  The stress of working our daughter through her grief and through her stress has changed us.  Because adoption is so beautiful, yes, but it is born of loss.  And Sisi has faced the loss of her birth family and then the loss of her foster family.

And as our characters were being refined, we found that what was being pushed to the surface was stuff we didn’t like.  Stuff we were ashamed of.

And that is where the YES that we gave comes in all over again.

We were also saying yes to refinement.

God has never promised easy.  He has promised presence, He has promised endurance, He has promised faithfulness.  He has never promised that if we name it we can claim it but he has promised that all things work together for our good.  He has never promised that this was an easy road, in fact he promised that in this world there will be trouble.

He promised us His peace.  Peace that is not like the world gives.  There is a peace, even in the midst of trouble, that comes from knowing you are where he wants you to be.   His presence in my struggles, in my selfishness, it is the healing gift that I need most.

He has promised us love and I have learned much about love in my 45 years.  What some people call love is not love at all because it is conditional, it is fleeting.  The love of God is permanent and nothing can take it from me.  It is not based on my performance but based on the one who is Love.  It is a love that lasts, that endures, that shapes and that transforms.

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And he is transforming us.

Our yes is still on the table and we don’t know where it will lead us next.

But we know the One who does.  And we start with this.

Do small things with great love.

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We go from here, with our yes on the table ready to go wherever that takes us.

 

 

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Practical Matters

One of my favorite things to say is, “I’m good at other things.”  We’re not all amazing at keeping house or doing crafts or staying on top of all the papers for school or flossing or whatever.  We are all good at different things.  We are all unique.

One thing I am good at is meal planning and cooking.  John and I both love to cook.  Our kids hate everything we cook … but that’s a whole other topic.  I like to plan out meals for the whole month and so I thought I would share a sample month with you.

First thing, I plan only Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays, we are exhausted and we usually make pizza for the kids and eat leftovers.  Saturdays, sometimes we are out and about, sometimes we are with friends, sometimes we decide to make a meal we’ve been thinking about.  So, Saturday is always TBD.  Sundays, we spend with my parents and my sister’s family and some other friends that are exactly like family.  That is always a group production.  I often bring a watermelon, make a cobbler, do green beans or something simple in my instant pot.

Second thing, I live with four picky eaters and one of them is me.  John and Lila will eat basically anything.  Nora does not eat meat except for, and this is a direct quote:  “Bacon and that ham that’s inside of chicken nuggets.”  I can confirm this.  Those of us that are picky are especially picky about vegetables.  Here’s how I combat this.  I serve fruit at every meal.  I do my shopping once a week because we go through  a lot of fresh produce.  At dinner, I serve whatever fruit we have; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, even apples.  Oh, and cucumbers, or as Sisi would say, “Crost-A-Veetsa”. To sneak veggies in, I shred up spinach in my food processor and add it to things like spaghetti sauce and smoothies and meatloaf and really anything.  If you totally shred it in the food processor (the one Aubrey left here is AMAZING.  It’s a NutriBullet.) it looks like oregano in the food.  I wish I could remember who taught me that trick.

Thirdly, life happens and it gets NUTS around here.  I like to keep a couple of easy, last minute throw together meals in the freezer/pantry.  Fast food/ordering pizza is something that is cost prohibitive for us if it isn’t planned for.  So, I keep frozen tortellini and I always have pasta sauce on hand.  We always have pizza crusts in the pantry.  And of course, my instant pot.  You can throw stuff in there and be done in no time flat.

And finally (and this is a trick I learned from Ellen at Just a Girl Who Loves) I kind of loosely have “theme nights”.  Mondays are always going to be taco nights this school year.  We have Bible study on Mondays and so we need to eat quickly and get out the door.  Plus, my kids love tacos like crazy and will always eat them.  Wednesday is another busy night because we have a group that meets at our house.  Most Wednesdays would be pasta because I can make a ton (in case group members need a bite, if they’re coming straight from work) and because I can throw it in the crockpot in the morning and just make pasta while I’m running around cleaning bathrooms and sweeping at the last second.  Remember, #imgoodatotherthings.

Here is a sample week and links to recipes.  I’ll come back each week and tell you how it went and what we’re eating the next week!

Monday: Tacos, Cuban Rice, refried beans, black beans and fruit.

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I didn’t take this photo, but this is what our rice looks like.

Our Cuban rice is crazy easy and so dang delicious.  Here is what you do.  Put 4 cups of water, 2 cups of jasmine rice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of salt in a pot on medium high if you’re John, high if you’re me.  (I’m impatient.  He burns the rice less often.)  Keep an eye on it.  Do not stir it.  Ever.  Wait for craters to form in the rice, it should look like the moon.  Put the lid on and then turn it on low for 10 minutes.  Boom, perfect rice.  This also works for quinoa but not for brown rice.  I just can’t make brown rice.

Tuesday:  Flank steak and mashed potatoes.  Green beans, carrots and fruit.

Green beans and carrots are staples at our house because many of us will actually eat them.

Jalapeno Flank Steak

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When I make mashed potatoes, I do not follow a recipe. I boil potatoes, mash them with that masher thingy or throw them in my kitchen aid.  I always put in butter and milk but sometimes also sour cream or cream cheese if I have it.

Wednesday: Herbed chicken, orzo pasta, asparagus and fruit.  The recipe calls for zucchini but we don’t like that, so asparagus it is.  No child will touch the asparagus of course.

Herbed Chicken and Orzo

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Thursday:  Honey Sesame Chicken, green beans, rice, peas and fruit.

Honey Sesame Chicken

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This is a new recipe for me but so far everything I’ve made in the Instant Pot comes out great.  I’m excited to try it!

How do you do your meal planning?  What are some of your favorites?  What are staple meals that you make regularly?  What’s your go to when you are out of time?

Three Months Home

Sisi holds out her fat little toes for me to paint.  She has a tiny nail on her baby toe, just like me and it makes me smile.  God is in these details.  I paint her nails aqua, just like mine and she says, “I like it the polish.”

Next I take her hands and paint them too.  Her fingers are her own and I wonder about the womb they were created in.  She is made up of genes and chromosomes and traits and it is all a mystery.  Somewhere, more than 5000 miles away is the woman whose body made my daughter.  It takes my breath away.

Adoption is beautiful and painful and miraculous and awful.  It is born out of loss and in Sisi’s case, out of two losses.  She lost her birth family.  She lost her foster family.  Now, at four, she is asked to change her identity.  She is asked to accept a new mommy and a new daddy, new sisters, new brothers, new family.  She is asked to accept and embrace a new culture.  Gone is kebapche and shopska and tarator.  Now there are burgers and ketchup and Chick-fil-a.  The music is different, the customs are different.  She had to learn to shake her head no and nod for yes.  In Bulgaria, it’s the other way around.

She misses home.  Misses kepapche and misses her school and most of all, misses her foster family, her foster mom.  This grieving she is experiencing is all a part of it.

Yes, it’s beautiful.  Yes, it’s a miracle.  But it comes at a cost.

Sisi is three months home.  She is learning so many “America” words.  She no longer says, “Dah” or “Neh” but says, “Yes” and “No.”  Hot dogs are still sevanche, “let’s go” is still hi-day, “get dressed” is still “oh-bleach-uh”.  But dresses are no longer “lochla” and “sockche” is just juice now.  The Bulgarian is fading away and English is roaring in like a tidal wave.

She loves school and loves her teachers and friends.  She loves church, loves Miss Amy, who she calls “Church”.  She’s been in the creek with Pappy and loved every minute of it.  Busch Gardens is her favorite place.  She asks to go outside to play on the monkey bars with Clairey everyday.  She’s crazy about our animals, sometimes a little too crazy.  Okay, most times too crazy about our animals.

She’s adjusting.  We’re adjusting.  It has not been easy for anyone and it’s not going to get easy anytime soon.

But it is worth it.

Here in America, Sisi has access to medical resources she would never have had in her own country.  Here in America, Sisi’s special needs will not stop her from living a happy, healthy independent life.  Here in America, Sisi is a Carter and we are her own forever family.

I love this wild child.  She is loud.  She is persistent.  She is exuberant.  She is brilliant.  She is precious.  She is a gift.

 

MayDay!

When you give birth to a baby, you see their first moments.  The baby is born, she is placed on your chest, you nurse her or feed her.  You hold her and marvel.  Your breath catches.  You realize your dreams and your imaginings of what she would be like are nothing compared to who she really is.

You breathe her in.  These are holy moments.

These are those moments with my daughter, Lila.

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When you adopt a child, it is different.  The first moment I saw Sisi, I was in a car in a foreign country.  She was standing in the window of her foster home and I could see her jumping up and down saying, “Mama Chris!  Daddy John!”

The first time I held her was in her home and she was big and beautiful and excitement was all around us.  It was different, but still holy.

Sisi became my daughter in an office.  We hugged her close and marveled.

It has been two months since we stepped off that airplane onto American soil with our newest daughter.

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It’s been a wild ride.

But here we are.  I love Sisi as wholeheartedly and as fully as I love my other six children.  I love her fiercely.  I have crossed oceans for her, I have walked through fire day by day.

She is beautiful, she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is wild, filled with Great Big Feelings- love, rage, laughter, mischief.  It’s amazing to watch her learning English at the speed of light.  It’s amazing to watch her interact with her sisters and her brother.  I love how much she loves her brother in law and her dear friend, Chichco Musica.  I love watching her at Busch Gardens or going down  a slide.  I love watching her figure out English words and I love how she tells us Bulgarian words.

I love her wild hair and her long eyelashes.  I love her ferocity and tenacity.

It’s been hard but every day, it gets a little easier.

I think to myself, what if we didn’t answer the call?

We could have missed this.

On March 11, 2015, we went to Next Level Church to hear Jen Hatmaker speak.  It was the most amazing talk.  When it was winding down, she challenged all who were present to “put their yes on the table” for God.  John and I stood there with our palms uplifted and we put our yes on the table.

We put our “yes” on the table.

A short time later, we saw this photo on Reece’s Rainbow.

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And it was time to put action to our “yes”.

It took 19 months.  19 months of paperwork and jumping through hoops and panic over missed deadlines and So Much Fundraising.

19 months to bring this child into our family.

And now we are two months into her being home.  And I have no regrets.  My yes is still on the table.  And I still say, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

I have a challenge for you.  And I’m not saying you have to adopt, but would you go to Reece’s Rainbow or Rainbow Kids or Adopt Us Kids, choose a child’s profile.  Print it off and pray.  Pray for that child like you would if they were yours. Do it everyday.  Put your “yes” on the table and see where it takes you.

Don’t miss what God has for you.

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Spirit Lead Me Where My Trust Is Without Borders

Bulgaria is beautiful.  The mountain through our window, the sound of the people talking, even the roof line … I love this place.

When we were on our way, a precious friend said, “Enjoy the country that gave you your daughter.”  And we are.  We are embracing it as best we can.  It’s hard to be a stranger in a strange land.  We are out of our element.

Everything is different.

The sounds, the smells, the food, the water, the customs, the checking out at the grocery store, the playgrounds, the atmosphere.  Even my mothering is different here.

It is my privilege to mother Sisi.  It’s an honor I don’t take lightly.  She is a treasure. We’ve crossed oceans for her and will do it again in less than a week to bring her home.

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She is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is a good gift.

But it is different.  I am just learning who she is. She is learning who I am.  I have to make sure she knows I am a safe person, that Daddy is a safe person.  I have to set boundaries that protect our relationship but also help her become who she is meant to be.  This is hard.

Sisi is going through the biggest change of her life.  She’s been taken from all she knows, all that is familiar, all that she loves.  She doesn’t know what’s coming next because we can’t tell her.

Oh adoption.  Beauty, redemption, joy but also pain, loss and grief.

Pray for us.  Pray for Sisi through her grief and through her adjustment.  Pray for Sisi’s foster family who miss her so much.  Pray for John and me to have wisdom as we parent her.  Pray that God will go before us as we get on that plane.  Sisi didn’t even want to go on a cable car, I don’t know what she will think about a plane!

Loss & Redemption

This morning, Sisi’s foster mom posted a photo of she and Sisi when Sisi was just a little baby.  I shed a few tears…because so much of this beautiful redemption story is also about loss.

Sisi’s four years have been colored by loss and restoration, loss and restoration.

She lost her birth parents at less than three weeks old.  But she got her foster family the same day.

She will lose her foster family very soon, but she will gain us.

It’s a lot to ask of a little girl.

My prayer for her this morning is that the brokenness that is born out of all this loss will be the brokenness that makes a space for Jesus and His redeeming love.  That the healing of these broken places will come from Jesus and not from me.

Her foster family will always be our family too.  They have loved our daughter so fully.

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Hopes and Prayers

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John tells me how beautiful Bulgaria is.  And I know that it must be.  It’s the place that gave us our daughter.

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He knows her now.  He has played with her, held her, embraced her, been growled at by her and been totally ignored by her.  He knows her.

I can’t REALLY show photos…she’s still not ours.  She belongs to her country and she is happy and safe and so well loved in her foster family.

So now, we get paperwork together.  We write her new name…Sylvia Grace Virginia Carter.  We get fingerprinted.  Again.  We pray.  We miss her.  John misses the Sisi he knows.  I miss the Sisi I want to know.

And that’s a whole other thing.  We’ve been talking about Sylvie and who she is and what she will be like; but for four years, a little girl named Sisi has been existing and living life.  We have to let go of our dreams of Sylvie and our imaginings of what she is like and embrace the Sisi that IS.  It’s the reconciling of dreams and expectations with reality.  Like when you give birth…and the little life you thought you knew in the womb is different than you imagined.

Sisi is somebody.  She has eternal significance and she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  And while it doesn’t feel much like rescue (she has the most beautiful and loving foster family), adopting her is shifting her destiny and changing her future.  It’s changing things in the world.

I long for her to be with us, to be in the midst of our glorious chaos, shaking things up and shaking them down.  I want to hear her loud voice demanding the “Telefono!”  I want her home.

But I also grieve for her family.  Her foster mom and dad and sisters.  They have adored her…lavished love on her.  They have invested in her ever since she was a tiny baby.  And now they let go with grace and love…There are not words to describe how I feel about them and the brutal beauty of their sacrifice.

You can help in this final leg of the journey.

Pray

  • Pray for us to finish this final paperwork.
  • Pray for fundraising and grants to come through
  • Pray for preparing of hearts for this Bulgarian Princess
    • Mommy and Daddy’s hearts
    • Lila and Claire’s hearts
    • Nora’s heart, this may be hardest for her
  • Pray for her foster family. Their grief will be great.
  • Pray for her to be home by Christmas.  This is my hope and prayer…that she would be with us for Christmas.

Give

 

 

Starting Here

I have six one month old chickens.

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I love them.  They are like therapy animals for me.  I know.  I’m weird.  I’m okay with it.

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I took them outside for the very first time the other day.  They huddled together, moved in a cluster, hid under a bush…but eventually began to scratch and peck and explore.

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It came time to bring them back in.  Time to go home to their brooder.

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I called them by saying:  “Chick-chick-chick-chick” which is what I always do when I feed them.  I’ve been saying this to them since they first arrived so that they will know my voice and know that good things come with my voice.

They amazed me by coming to me when I called them.

But they wouldn’t let me catch them.  As soon as my hands got close, they scooted away.

I called them again.  They came towards me…they ran off.

The shelter of the bush felt more secure to them than being held in my hands.

It took close to an hour to catch all six and return them to their nice safe brooder.

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The next morning…I sat and talked with a friend about my journey to figure out how to function in this fibromyalgia autoimmune stage of my life.

“I really think God is wanting to use it to slow me down.”  I said.  And as the day went on, I thought more and more about how I feel about slowing down.

I fight it.

I struggle against it.

I fear it.

I’m like my silly little chickens.  I come, hearing His voice, but shy away when it comes time to surrender and just be in His hands.

 

I fight and I struggle because I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of what slowing down will mean for my value and my worth in this life.  I’m afraid that if I slow down, I will miss out on life and experiences and that I will be forgotten and left behind.  I’m afraid that if I slow down…this disease will win and take over completely.  I’m afraid that if I slow down, I will be seen as weak, that I will BE weak.  I don’t want to be weak.

I’m afraid.

There it is.

know, I know, I KNOW…His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  And I know…I know…that through trials, He is near and He does not let it go to waste.  And I know that I must surrender to have breakthrough….And I know that my worth is not tied up in what I can do but in who I am in Him.  And I know that God will give me mercies enough to get through this.  And I know that sometimes He heals illnesses instantly and that sometimes it’s a process and that sometimes healing does not come until heaven.

But still.

Surrender is hard.

So that is where I am.  I’m a little chicken afraid to surrender to the Master’s hand. Afraid to trust those hands to take me to safety.  Afraid to settle in and just receive this season of rest.

I will start here though, ready to take the next step and go to the next place, the next season.  Begin to trust even though I’m afraid.

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He Sets the Lonely in Families

There are two things people say most often about adoption.

  1.  You can’t save them all.
  2. Do you really need another kid?

And I agree.  We can’t save them all.  And adopting one out of 154 million feels like a drop in the bucket.  But here is what I know.

It would only take 7% of the Christian population to solve the orphan/foster care crisis.  Only 7%.

Imagine if that 7% were empowered to bring these ones into their homes.  Imagine if the other 93% rallied around that 7%.

No, I can’t save them all.  But the body of Christ can.

And frankly, no.  I don’t need another kid.  (I sometimes wonder if I need the ones I have, hardy-har-har.)

This is not about me.  Or us.  Or our family.

This is about a child that God called us to rescue.  This is about a little girl who needs us. This is about giving God our yes.  This is the overflow of our redemption.  The overflow of how very loved we are.

This is about being a family for Sissy, not getting a kid for our family.  Our family already has a ton of kids.

From now until Easter, I’m going to share Reece’s Rainbow kids…I am asking you to pray over their profiles.  Give God your yes and see where it leads.  There are so many things that we can actively DO.

  1.  We can pray.
  2. We can give.
  3. We can show up for adoptive/foster families, helping with fundraising and meals and moral support.
  4. We can adopt.

This is Curtis

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Pray for Curtis today.  He is a person of eternal significance, created in the image of God.  Ask God what your part in these lonely ones’ lives is.

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